ITHACA, N.Y. — About 30 people turned out on a cold, rainy Tuesday to stand in solidarity with an east coast strike against Verizon wireless, which began about two weeks ago when unionized workers say the company refused to compromise about fair wages, job security and healthcare.
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About 40, 000 workers from Maine to Virginia have been working without a contract since June 22 and say that Verizon has refused to budge at the bargaining table.
The demonstration Tuesday was outside the Verizon Wireless store at 720 S. Meadow St., near a busy shopping complex.
“I feel that the company doesn’t really care about the customer or their employees..They’re saving a lot of money by not making payroll, and that’s all they are about is the bottom dollar,” said Andy Weyant, who does alignment for the company.
He said he is particularly concerned about job stability at the company because Verizon is contracting out work to lower wage workers and sending work overseas.
“It’s about time somebody stood up to keep good jobs in the country,” he said. “Nobody wanted a strike, but if it’s a last resort, we gotta do what we gotta do.”
Jake Lake, a Verizon employee who helped organize the protest, said he did so to bring the issue to the forefront of the community’s attention.
In addition to picketers and people passing out handbills, for instance, a giant inflatable rat was also set up along Meadow Street.
He said Verizon has made $1.8 billion in profits every month in 2016, an increase from $1.5 billion in 2015.
At the negotiation table, he said, the union representing workers has already conceded several million dollars in healthcare savings to Verizon. But the company is not meeting the union on demands for pay increases, more reasonable hours of work and job security.
“We were sick of the non-negotiations going on”, he said. “There had to have been a breaking point and it just happened to be 14 days ago.”
Among the attendees Tuesday was Leslie Danks Burke, who is challenging Republican State Sen. Tom O’Mara.
She said, and workers confirmed, that she’s been on the picket line with the workers in Ithaca, Elmira and New York City since he strike started.
“You are fighting. You are fighting for fair wages for good work. You are fighting for time with your families. No one deserves to spend 21 days on the road away from their families,” she said, commending the workers for ensuring that future employees in the industry will also have fair wages.
“There are workers who are standing up all across this state,” Burke said.
Lake said request for support from O’Mara have gone unanswered.
Mike Blaney, The Ithaca Voice Executive Director, contributed to this report and took photos.
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